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Cross-cultural Usability Issues of Bilingual (Hindi & English) Mobile Phones

Cross-cultural Usability Issues of Bilingual (Hindi & English) Mobile Phones

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Published by Dinesh Katre

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Published by: Dinesh Katre on Aug 11, 2010
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Indo-Danish HCI Research Symposium 2006
Position Paper on
“Cross-cultural Usability Issues of Bilingual(Hindi & English) Mobile Phones”
Dr. Dinesh S. Katre
Group CoordinatorHuman Computer Interaction Design (HCID) GroupNational Multimedia Resource Centre
Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
Personal Website:
Variety of information services like Short Message Service (SMS), e-mail, news,market reports, educational applications and other reading materials are now available on mobile phones. The size of mobile phone and its display is shrinking day-by-day, whereas the volume of information content and services are growing. More importantly, mobile phones introduced in the Indian market have now become bilingual; they support various services in English and Hindi languages. Mobile manufacturers have consciously or unconsciously resorted to English oriented approaches, and as a result of this, they have diluted the culture specific rules and the original form of Hindi language. Therefore, to restore the original characteristics of Hindi in mobile phones, it has become inevitable to study the cross-cultural usability issues between Hindi and English. This study involves consideration of various aspects like keypad design, mapping of Devan 
gari alphabets, text entry techniques, rendering of fonts, paralinguistic features, legibility, layout and pagination, navigation through text, grammatical structure of textual content, translation of user interface and reading comprehension. We have studied the application of Hindi in four bilingual (Hindi and English) mobile phones manufactured by different companies like Nokia / Reliance 3105 CDMA, LG RD5130, Motorola C118 and Samsung / Reliance C200. Ten linguistic usability heuristics have been identified and applied for revealing several linguistic usability problems and cross-cultural issues in mobile phones. Our study provides sufficient reasons for standardization of keypad layout, Devan 
gari alphabetical rendering, and Hindi translation of English technical terms used in mobile phones. This position paper provides the basis for enhancing the usability of Hindi application in mobile phones.
KEYWORDSBilingual Mobile Phone, Cross-cultural Usability, Linguistic UsabilityHeuristics, Hindi and English,
Script, Keypad Design, FontsRendering, Reading Comprehension
Katre D. S. (2006), “Position Paper On Cross-cultural Usability Issues of Bilingual (Hindi &English) Mobile Phones”, In the Proceedings of Indo-Danish HCI Research Symposium,Hosted by Department of Design, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, India.
1. INTRODUCTION1.1 About Hindi Language
Hindi is the national language of India and it is spoken by at least 402 millionIndians as per the Census of India conducted in 2001. Ideally, entire 1 billionpopulation of India is desired to communicate in this language. Furthermore,there are several countries like USA, UK, Mauritius, South Africa, Yemen,Uganda, Singapore, Nepal, New Zealand, Germany, Pakistan, etc. which havesignificant Hindi speaking population. The number of people communicating inHindi is enormous and hence it is necessary to study the uniqueness and culturespecific requirements of Hindi, especially when it is introduced in mobile phones.Hindi originates from
and it is written in
script. It has beeninfluenced and enriched by many other languages such as Dravidian, Turkish,Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese and English. Unlike other languages enlisted here,English has continued to impact Hindi through modern technologies and mediaeven today.
1.2 Impact of English
One could consider any two languages, in case of bilingual mobile phones.However, English has been specifically mentioned considering that it is the mostpopular international language available on most mobile phones. Word-processing and document publishing tools, printing technology and other mediaof communication are highly influenced by English. This is mainly due to naturaltendency of western scientists to design technologies suiting the requirements ofEnglish as their first priority. English style of typing, text rendering, formatting,layout design, and presentation techniques are getting forced on other worldlanguages including Hindi, due to worldwide proliferation of modern technologiesand media. Technology developers have consciously or unconsciously resortedto English oriented approaches, and consequentially, they have diluted theculture specific requirements and the original form of Hindi. Therefore theusability of Hindi application in mobile phones has become questionable.It is inevitable to study the cross-cultural usability issues between Hindi andEnglish for restoring the original characteristics of Hindi in mobile phones. It is anaccepted fact that Hindi and English will require to co-exist together.
Weconduct this cross-cultural study with the objective of making them co-exist without imposing on each other, and without sacrificing theiroriginalities, and in the most usable fashion.
It is necessary to resolve thecross-cultural usability issues in bilingual mobile phones first, which willeventually pave the right path for multi-lingual mobile applications.1.3 Our Approach
Many cross-cultural issues between Hindi and English languages are applicableto wide range of media. However, we have focused on the application of Hindi inmobile phones only. These are highly constrained communication devices in
The ancient and sacred language of the Hindus in India.
The script in which Sanskrit and several dialects of India are written.
terms of small size of handset, limited display resolution and storage capacity.The cross-cultural usability issues tend to become more sever due to suchlimitation of resources. We have studied the application of Hindi in four bilingual(Hindi and English) mobile handsets manufactured by different companies.These are namely-
Nokia / Reliance
3105 CDMA
LG RD5130
Motorola C118
Samsung / Reliance C200
 We have focused on script-based application of Hindi and English in Mobilephones. Our evaluation of Hindi and English is from the perspective of ‘readingcomprehension’ because it is the ultimate objective of any written communicationthrough mobile phones. It allows us to consider the entire set of linguistic aspectslike text entry, script, word formation, grammatical structure, legibility, readabilityand navigation through text. Proposed cross-cultural usability study of mobilephones is intended to help in design and development of more usable mobilephones for Hindi users. This has paramount importance; as the total number ofmobile users in India is likely hit 100 million by 2007, as per the report publishedon W2FORUM.
1.4 Definition of Cross-cultural Issues
Due to unavailability of a comprehensive and specific definition of ‘Cross-culturalIssues in HCI’, it is defined as under-
“Cross-cultural issues are basically the unique requirements ofdifferent civilizations or societies or communities of peopleasking for change in the design of product or technology orsystem or service to make it more usable and acceptable.The cross-cultural issues can be studied in terms of racialcharacteristics, life-style, traditional practices, geographical andpolitical contexts, social rules and values, histories, religions,languages and mental models of people.”
In the light of this definition, we have tried to identify the requirements of Hindimobile users and evaluated the usability of bilingual mobile phones introduced inthe Indian market.
1.5 ‘Linguistic Usability Heuristics’ for Bilingual Mobile Phones
Following ‘linguistic usability heuristics’ are identified and applied during ourevaluation of bilingual mobile phones. The heuristics will be useful for qualitative
Reliance Infocomm Ltd. is one of the major mobile service providers in India. Nokia and Samsung haveexclusively provided the mobile handsets to Reliance.

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